No one is anonymous in a small town:
Thatís good and bad
Keeping friends in an election year
21, 2000] Living
in a small town makes anonymity very difficult. Sometimes thatís
good: Folks who barely know us know enough about us to offer support
when our family faces illness, death or hard times. People who
recognize our name shout "atta boys" when our kid hits a
home run, our spouse is elected president of a service organization,
or we win the lottery. Especially if we win the lottery. Thatís
the good news.
anonymity has its disadvantages ó like when we take a stand in an
election year. Years ago a friend ran for a local office and asked me
to put his sign in my yard. I refused, saying that I never put signs
in my yard, because I usually had friends on both sides in local
elections. That was the chickenís way out, and I later regretted my
decision. What message does timid neutrality give my kids about the
importance of participation in a democracy?
in recent years I have placed a few signs in my yard. I have even
written a few letters to the editor in support of causes or
candidates. As a result, I have angered friends. Angering friends
hurts. But I suppose that is a small price to pay for the advantages
of community life. I can get by with fewer "atta boys."
sides in a local election often means choosing between good people we
know well. So even when our side loses, life goes on, and the
candidate we did not back rises to the occasion and happily surprises
us. In time we almost forget that we were once in the opposition, and
we regain neighborly notions towards those on the other side.
[to top of second
political battles, fairly fought, illuminate our understanding of
issues and remind us of the precious value of our democratic heritage.
Bitter contests which grow nastily personal diminish our community but
rarely do permanent damage. Smarting from the emotional pain they
inflict, we tend to compensate by reaching out to one another when
wounds have healed.
notice that young people who grow up in small towns gain a special
self-confidence that comes as much from having failed as from always
succeeding. They experience very personally the pain of disappointing
their families and neighbors, discover that a second chance lies
around every corner, and move on with fresh resolve. Small towns, with
watchful neighbors, do not allow for anonymity, but they do offer
correction without rejection.
election year, my yard is once again adorned with signs professing my
position on an issue that is important to me. I want very much for my
side to win, but I know too many people on the other side to think
that their cause is without merit or that they are not people of
infinite worth. Maybe such self-proclaimed equanimity is deceptively
self-serving, but heck, if I donít pat myself on the back, who will?
My friends and neighbors, on both sides, perhaps. I hope so.